After two weeks in the Gaslamp Quarter, it was time to move up to the Balboa Park area. The memories of this park always brought back poignant memories over the years and I was really looking forward to really exploring it like I never had before. My new base will be the ITH Zoo Hostel (also referred to as ITH CoLive Balboa). I was back to lunging my luggage up a flight of stairs as the hostel is over the top of a commercial building with stores on the bottom. I was greeted by a solidly-built tall young man in his mid-late twenties with flowing black hair and an infectious smile. He gave me a tour of the facility and let me leave my bags in his office as I was there there well before check-in time. I asked about the “colive” aspect of the hostel and he told me that he also had long-term guests who are staying for an extended period of several months or more. The long term guests are either working at the hostel as a volunteer, working in town, or just hanging out. I learned the situation worked for everyone concerned and even helped keep the place safer since the long-termers knew when someone who didn’t belong wandered in.

First Impression

Once I got to the top of the stairs, I thought to myself, “Okay, this is more like the Hostel on 3rd”. This was being run by a mostly volunteer group who are just traveling and checking things out. 

Manny’s smile told me the same.

As we walked around I looked for the things I generally look for: generally cleanliness and signs of pests. The generally cleanliness on a scale of one to ten was probably a seven. No signs of pests anywhere was good.

ITH Zoo stairway

The Quick Tour

 The building was actually bigger than it looked and there were several long hallways leading to other rooms. I was staying in a coed double bunk bed room. The two large bathrooms here are also coed with each toilet and shower having its own stall. It works well and nobody is exposed or put out. The kitchen area and stove was suitable for the use it was getting. Lots of pots and pans and utensils. There is something that might drive older people nuts: the condition of well-made pans due to improper usage and cleaning. But, as my dad would say, that’s why they make butter (or olive oil if you wish) to keep things from sticking.

Social Area

Every  morning when I got up, I’d go into the kitchen, grab a cup of coffee, and go sit down on a large red leather couch to struggle with using chrome book to update this website. Invariably, the bears were there to greet us as we arose each morning to greet the new day. 

The room also has a pool table and musical instruments including a piano, guitars, and drums. On a couple of occasions, a guest would start playing one them – they’d often make a pretty good sound while playing, too.

Adam and Shanquay

People I Met

There were the two gentlemen from Africa, short-termer Adam on the left and long-termer Samjah on the right, dancing to traditional African music one morning. Adam was traveling the world to learn child linguistics first hand as he obtains his degree in higher learning from the University and Samjah is a young man on a personal journey to learn about himself and the world around him with hope he’ll figure out what he wants to do in life. I think he will; at least I hope so. Both are great guys and two of the people I conversed with most in the hostel.


I paid $41.83 a night for a bed in a two-bunk bed co-ed dorm room. Total cost for the week was $292.84. 


This was the most open hostel of all three and in some ways it makes sense. ITH Zoo is located in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego – which is the center of the LBGTQ community in the area. As such, the place is much calmer and safer than other areas of town like the Gaslamp Quarter. You don’t have the number of street people around either (although, you do have some). The front door is left open during the day and basically anyone can come in. However, access to dorms and private rooms is protected by an electronic card key you’re given at check-in; plus the long-termers who know who should be there or not. I never saw any trouble of any kind in and around this hostel. As a matter of fact, I really haven’t seen any great disturbances or situations where the police are needed throughout all of San Diego during my three week stay.


I liked this place as a base. I found the long term residents, though nice, were naturally more comfortable communicating and dealing with other long-termers in the eating and sitting areas. The way to get to know some of them was to spend a lot of time in the “smoking area” – a small closet-type room without an open-air roof with a bench and two sets of van seats to sit on. I should have took a picture but there was always someone in the place. However, the showers were clean, the bathroom situation was comfortable, you had easy access to dry and refrigerated storage, the were two sets of washers and dryers that didn’t seem overused even though the place was full, the rooms were dusty but otherwise clean (definitely not dirty dirty). Beds were okay. They had air conditioning. I would easily stay here again. No problems. Plus, like I said, people were nice – both the long and short-termers.